Thursday, March 20, 2014

At The Feeders: White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

March 20th, 2014. We installed a couple of log feeders in mid-December, 2013. Our inspiration came from a log feeder at the Ontario FeederWatch Cam sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that was visited regularly by a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). 

Within a day or so of installation, Downy Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens) began to feed at these logs and, within a few days, other birds began to investigate the logs. The  White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) was the last of the ‘exotic’ birds - birds we don't see often - that I spotted at the feeders this year - on February 11th.

I spotted it first on the trunk of a tree immediately behind the log feeders, darted onto a log feeder upside-down, grabbed a mouthful of food ‘to go’ and disappeared. I’ve seen two birds at the same time – on a tree further into the woods but only one has visited the log feeder at any one time. It has only fed at the log feeders, never at the suet feeder attached to the platform feeder or at the tube seed feeders. It’s appeared at irregular intervals since and is one of the hardest birds to photograph because its appearance is so unpredictable. But it’s a very striking bird and worth the effort to photograph. 

A closer view.

If spotted, they can be identified at a distance in their characteristic upside-down pose.

At a glance, the White-breasted Nuthatch looks like a…

Carolina Chickadee but there are several differences. The chicadee has a black ‘bib’ that is lacking in the nuthatch. The nuthatch is also larger – 5 to 5.5 inches long – compared with the chicadee that is 3.9–4.7 inches long. 

The nuthatch tends to creep down or perch on tree trunks upside-down whereas the chickadee flies in, and perches on branches but doesn't creep up or down tree trunks.

A typical pose upside-down of the White-breated Nuthatch on the log feeder compared with the…

Right-side up pose of the Carolina Chickadee on the the log feeder.
The White-breasted Nuthatch is resident in this area throughout the year. 

Identification resource:

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